Tuesday, September 29, 2015
September has been a tough month to balance. Work has kicked into gear with early fall activities that keep me organizing, teaching, rehearsing (driving all around the area) and communicating at a good clip. I am grateful that Khaleesi is in shape right now and just needs some maintenance riding to be able to complete the Old Dominion (LD) ride in less than two weeks, Faygo however has been in slightly less use through the heat and humidity of summer and can use to be ridden more regularly right now.
I look forward to going to the AERC national championships next week and very glad to give Madison a taste of endurance riding by sponsoring her in the open 25 mile ride to join Khaleesi and I on Faygo the Fantastic. It will be Madison’s first ride and Faygo is not young or 100% with breathing and joints/muscles so we will plan to go easy and stick to the back of the group and finish strong & healthy.
With goals in mind, I could hear the voice in my head Get it done Jaime.
Tuesday I needed to get both horses ridden. I started with Khaleesi because it’s better for both of us if I’m fresher and physically it takes more to ride her right now. There has been a paradigm shift in my horse world late this summer and I brought her in with the intent on taking as long as it takes to be in her world for our time together. It was a little like being in a time-warp.
I brushed her and cleaned her up while she had a snack, then I untied her and everything else from feet cleaning to tacking up we did standing in place with the line draped over my arm. Then we played around at the step stool (mounting block) until she did that properly before we were ready to roll.
I felt like that must have taken a lot longer than my normal tie her up and buzz around her while she stands mostly quietly while I work. There is a focus involved that forces me to be 100% present (something I need more of in my life but is hard for me) working this way that felt like I had been with her for hours but upon looking at my clock, it was roughly the same amount of time it would normally take me.
Then we rode off together and after hitting the trail she broke into a trot and without a thought I began posting in my heels with her as if I’d been doing it all my life.
The entire ride wasn’t so easy for me, but it was a good ride and I love seeing the change of Fall coming. I can feel her legs and where they are much more naturally now, and we did a good 8 miles or so moving just under 5mph which is ok for us alone. I have noticed it’s not so easy to get her into our 6mph and up averages alone. Another horse to ride with helps if they are willing to move that pace, or ride day with tons of horses on the trail and she’s good to go, but just the two of us I have to remind her we’re working and I do ask her to, but I also enjoy some trail time in no hurry as well. It’s supposed to be fun… right?
We got back and I traded Khaleesi for Faygo. I am trying to work with her more intentionally now as well. I decided since her ride would be shorter that day to save even more time and ride her bareback- also I thought it would be good for us. We headed up the mountain and she has big movements that I noticed with much more thought to what it meant and where her legs were and how I moved with her. It was a lovely ride up the mountain around and back. At one point I had scooted too far forward and momentarily thought “wow! that IS a lot of motion” till I realized that was her shoulders moving. It was a good lesson of staying out of the way with the saddle of that movement and how far back that shoulder movement goes.
My riding and seat are more relaxed now and my hips have more flexibility which is one way I can feel what is going on when my horses move. I am more tired now after riding than I used to be- new body parts are moving and different muscles are engaged. After riding both horses (and being bareback on Faygo) I was tired in a good way but felt like we’d done good things.
I always try to pull life lessons out of my work with the horses. I was teaching a student last week and tried an approach that I asked him questions and let him guide the lesson and his learning more than usual. He is a young student, very intelligent and naturally talented but he is noncommittal and quick to say “I don’t know” – even in questions like “Do you have a favorite movie.. color… book etc” I don’t know is a great answer if you need help, but in his case it becomes a way not to have to think more deeply. I challenged him last week. At one point I had asked him a question and he stood there a long time. I would normally think “I’m losing this kid- he’s drowning right now, I need to give him a clue or a follow up question” but instead I just waited. I didn’t say a thing. I thought he would end up distracted and not give me an answer but another “I don’t know” but instead after that unbearably (for me) long pause he did have an answer.
I also allowed him to decide if he’d done “enough” work on a piece he was a bit stuck on. He said he felt he should be able to pass the piece and move on. I said “Ok. We move on then” He was smiling (he knew he had more work to do on it, he’d “gotten away” with something). At the end of that lesson he literally sat in a chair and looked like he might faint. I was a little worried about him actually. I had fried his brain I thought… He said he was ok, packed up his violin and headed down the stairs- but before he got far he came back. He said to me “I think I have a little more work to do on that song, so I’ll play it for you again next week.”
Wow. That was a cool moment!
Grabbing a quick morning later in the week before teaching I did another bareback spin on Faygo since her rides have been shorter lately and have started enjoying that option if we’re not going far.
I had a fantastic weekend of visiting musician friends, concerts and gigs along with a creative workshop with my young students. Not a lot of horse time, but it was raining as a tropical storm was coming in from the coast. In fact it’s been raining for days. I did grab another ride on Khaleesi before the whirlwind of friends and weather got too intense.
My next day off was Tuesday again and I absolutely had to get a decent ride on Faygo. The OD ride is in just under two weeks and I can’t expect to do hard training less than a week before. This was the day. It was predicted to be the most rain, and to last all day. This would be a great opportunity to try out my rain gear!
I headed to the barn and enjoyed the process with Faygo. She had lymes disease and had grown out of her saddle a couple of years ago while I wasn’t paying attention and ended up with joint and back pain and saddle soreness which also made her girthy. Thankfully I have that fantastic saddle from Phoenix Rising that is great for her and comfortable for me, but old habits die hard. She sometimes still reaches back when I tighten the girth and sometimes still takes a step away when I saddle her. (My vet and the ride vets all confirm she has no back soreness now… I am convinced it’s habit- and probably other things connected to how I didn’t connect with her in the past).
Now we took all the time we needed as I wasn’t in a huge hurry to go out of the cozy barn into the downpour. I asked her to stand untied while I brought the pad over and put it on her back. She took a step. I asked her to go back. I adjusted the pad and rubbed her. She’d take a step one way or the other. I’d ask her back. I played with the pad until she relaxed into just standing there while I walked around her and moved her pad around. Then the saddle- and by now she got the game and stood relaxed while I adjusted the saddle so I was really satisfied from both sides it was centered and in the best place. Then the girth. She didn’t move a foot. She did turn her head but not nearly as much as usual and we were starting off our ride already more as a team than usual.
I steeled myself to the fact that I can do anything for 2 or 3 hours, even ride in a soggy wet downpour. I am going to have to do a ride someday in crappy weather. Just like I will have to ride in the dark… It’s inevitable- I went out night riding to prepare for that, so might as well practice this too.
Get it done.
In the end, the raincoat was fantastic. I was completely dry and so was my saddle. I didn’t mind being out at all and even extended our ride to stay out longer. If I didn’t have a goal I would not have gone riding on such a day. Now I will definitely go riding on a rainy day in the future again- by choice if it’s the day I have to ride.
As for Faygo, I have been starting to give grain again as the summer grasses mellow out and they aren’t looking like roly-poly grass belly horses anymore. This makes it easier to supplement Faygo with her cough free and lung help supplements (mostly herbal stuff). I have noticed she was better last year with regular cough free. I did not bother with it as much this summer- in part because I’d decided to ride her less through the heat of summer, and also in part to see if it really did make a difference to use it or not. I think it does help and just having her on it in the past weeks she seems to have a bit more energy and recover from hills more. This is probably also because the weather is changing and cooler weather is much better for her. I notice her coat changes through the seasons, but it’s always thicker than Khaleesi’s coat is.
I know she is capable of finishing a 25 mile ride – especially one we don’t push her too hard. It is nice to see the Fall riding that she’s more suited for. Right now I envision that Faygo will get a little more riding time through the winter and Khaleesi will get more rest. This fits my farrier’s vision as well- he says Khaleesi grows less hoof than Faygo, and though her feet are good I could wear them down with much barefoot riding. We have a boot program of course, but at the moment I think I will try the advice of many endurance riders and give her a down season where I don’t ride her as much. This gives me some shorter rides and quality time with Faygo in winter and then let Faygo have some semi-retirement in spring- late summer when the weather isn’t kind to her.
Speaking of the farrier- the last thing I had to get done was shoes.
This was Khaleesi’s second shoeing and I’d been preparing her as much as I could using the stand still as I picked up and banged on her feet and held them longer than she was comfortable with. I value my farrier above all other people in my horse’s world and a horse easy for him to work with will make a huge difference in the quality of the shoe job she gets as well as his responsiveness to our needs when we call. I was much less nervous for this visit because I believe she would do alright and that I had tools to help her through and improve her.
Faygo has always been pretty good with the farrier- but after our stand still work she was better than I’d ever seen her.
Khaleesi was not perfect. We did hot shoeing for the first time and she dragged my farrier around the barn on her first front hoof but he said actually her reaction was not as bad as he’d seen- and what surprised him (but not me) was that the second foot, the second time she was better- not worse. She is able to learn and relax as we don’t amp up the tension ourselves where I know some other horses just get more and more upset. Thankfully she is not that kind of horse and by the last time he had a good fit and put the hot shoe to her hoof (this does not hurt them, but it’s freaky at first) she hopped back and then just stood completely still and seemed to relax there. When I put her back in place she chewed and yawned.
I am thankful for a farrier who is willing to be patient, take longer than usual with her and give us the time she needed to get used to the process.
It is fun to reflect back to the day when he met her the first time, I’d only had her a week, and she was a little flighty and wouldn’t let him touch her. That day he shook his head and tried to ask my what on earth was I doing with THAT horse. Good luck was the best he could tell me at the time.
Now, the highest complement I’ve had so far might be when my farrier told me yesterday: “You’ve done a good job with that horse“